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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Indonesian Representatives, Lie to Me No More

Indonesian Representatives, Lie to Me No More

By Yohanes Sulaiman & Weilin Han on 08:23 pm Apr 07, 2014

A while ago there was a TV series called “Lie to Me” where the main character, Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth), was a psychologist helping law enforcement agents to analyze a suspect’s face and body movements to determine whether he or she was telling the truth.

Ahead of this year’s elections, hosts of TV programs and talkshows in Indonesia are suddenly turning into amateur psychologists. Walking in Lightman’s footsteps, they are analyzing people in similar ways, inviting experts to help reading gestures of various electoral candidates, interpreting and adding meanings, giving seals of approval and disapproval.

Those who felt threatened and humiliated by such analyses responded by claiming that the television hosts were campaigning against them. At the same time, those who were praised in the shows are using the analyses as marketing tools for self-promotion: to show what great candidates they are.

By the end of the day though, these analyses have no objective value. It’s pure entertainment. There is very little correlation between how candidates make gestures and whether they will perform well once they are elected (if that’s the case, then psychopaths would be the best presidents).

On the other hand, there is another familiar way to determine whether a candidate will do as he or she says. It is called a track record. The candidate has to prove what they have done and how they manage conflicts. He is expected to give evidence of his performance, and not what he wishes he had done. An academic CV and list of previous positions may be important as a gauge of a person’s qualifications, but they are less important than experience in actually getting something done.

To some degree though, it is possible to combine both Lightman’s method and actual track records during this year of campaigning. By this we mean that we are taking scores of candidates’ past promises and gestures and see if they keep those promises.
For instance, one promise that often comes up during the campaign is that education will be improved.
“I promise that education should be free and accessible for everyone,” “we have to increase our education quality,” “we will pay attention to the teacher’s welfare” — and many other promises are blurted out in order to garner votes. In reality, though, while officially education is free, people are still saddled with various fees: study trips fees, uniform fees, donations, etcetera.
Moreover, records show that in the last two years, our Education Ministry made many promises, only to break them: look at Kurikulum 2013-gate (K13). The ministry boasted that this curriculum was the only savior for our education system — just like an advertising quack with tales of countless cures to every imaginable disease.

Let us refresh your memory on the broken promises surrounding K13. During the K13 socialization process, it was said that the state would bear the costs for production and dissemination of the books, teachers would be very happy because they did not have to spend a lot of time developing lesson plans and assessments. And since K13 was a progressive curriculum, the state would also provide a new format of the report card, which would show the student’s capacity holistically.

Grade-10 students would take cross-stream subjects that they like instead of following a rigid schedule. The school would use their past report cards and psychological test to make decisions. K13 training would only be carried out by certified and qualified trainers who master the concepts. The list goes on and on.

Let us be fooled no more. In reality it is all business as usual. The original “free books” was just a teaser. Schools must purchase K13 books now. Available lesson plans (which are very poorly written) were samples and teachers in the end had to create their own lesson plans. At the same time, the problem is that most teachers don’t have any clue about how to create their own K13-based lesson plans because not only were trainings limited, the trainers also were not briefed and prepared ahead of time.

Report cards? Schools must be creative, right? So, be as creative as you like. Choosing your cross-stream subjects? The guideline provided during the training officially mentioned that the students could do that only in Grade 11 — and not 10 as boasted. Some schools obediently follow the former instruction and some follow the latter. Monitoring, who cares?
In the end, talk is cheap and people should keep the old adage in mind: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

We have learned the hard way that those who made promises turned out luring us into muddier and murkier conditions — and, to make matters worse, they used our tax money to do so.

We should now use the limited time available to learn about the track records of candidates. Obviously, we can always just shrug, believing there is no use in voting. Or, we can think that they are all liars anyway. But are you sure you want to lose your chance? Have we not learned to reject stiff-necked crooks?

We use our time to learn about candidates, because we don’t want to have ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing representing us.

Yohanes Sulaiman is a lecturer at the Indonesian Defense University (Unhan).
Weilin Han is a teacher-trainer and school consultant.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

In search of Indonesia’s ‘grand strategy’


In search of Indonesia’s ‘grand strategy’


For a large and populous country that lies along a strategically vital trade route, Indonesia does not have a clear and coherent “grand strategy.” Experts both inside and outside the Indonesian government may claim otherwise, noting the peaceful foreign policy slogan of “a thousand friends and zero enemies” and the bebas aktif (free and active foreign policy). This, however, remains a very vague policy with limited practical implications, in particular on what kind of actions Indonesia must take to achieve its goals.

The fallout from the lack of a grand strategy is evident in Indonesia’s security policies. Take the recent debate on whether Indonesia should buy 100 Leopard tanks from the Netherlands as part of a plan to modernize its Armed Forces. The talk centers around whether buying the tanks is a great idea for an archipelagic nation, whether Indonesia’s transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges are strong enough to handle the 60-ton tanks, whether such a purchase would negatively impact Indonesia’s own defense industry and whether Indonesia should abandon the plan considering the nationalistic uproar following the Dutch parliament’s opposition to the sale because of perceived human rights violations in Indonesia.

There was no discussion at all, however, on where the tanks fit into the strategic calculations generally elaborated in a grand strategy.

Even explanations from Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Pramono Edhie Wibowo, and then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, failed to address this question. They were mostly centered on the need for Indonesia to keep up with the Joneses: because other nations in Southeast Asia had Leopard tanks, it is only natural that Indonesia should also have them.
In essence, there has been no debate whatsoever on what kind of military Indonesia must have to fulfill both its foreign policy and national security needs. Defenders of the Leopard tank procurement would have a much stronger case to make to both parliament and the public had they managed to show where the tanks would fit within Indonesia’s grand strategy, and the short and long-term military goals to meet the demands outlined in this grand strategy.

The fact that Indonesia does not have a grand strategy means there is simply no good argument to justify the purchase of any type of hardware it may want. At the same time, any political opposition could derail Indonesia’s scheme to modernize its Armed Forces.

Regionally, Indonesia’s policy of bebas aktif works to some degree, especially in dealing with the rise of China. As noted in an interesting analysis by Jessica Brown, a researcher at the Australia-based Center for Independent Studies, Indonesia has managed to juggle the interests of both the United States and China while benefitting greatly from their overtures. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty M Natalegawa has often remarked that Indonesia wants to promote the paradigm of “win-win” solutions, through which it reduces the chance of diplomatic backlash and makes everyone happy.

Such an approach, however, has not helped strengthen ASEAN, which is also one of Indonesia’s key foreign policy priorities. Frontline states that are most directly influenced and threatened by China, most notably Vietnam and the Philippines, do not share the optimism of Indonesia’s approach and actually see its win-win strategy as a clear lack of commitment to standing together against such threats.

Not surprisingly, both the Philippines and Vietnam welcome more US involvement in Southeast Asia, as they see America as less threatening and the lesser of two evils compared to China. Thus, Vietnam applauded US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2010 ASEAN Summit in Hanoi when she said the United States had an interest in preserving free shipping in the South China Sea, and that it would be willing to facilitate multilateral talks on the issue.

This was implicit affirmation that the US was refocusing its attention on the Asia-Pacific region. For its part, the Philippines reacted positively when US President Barack Obama announced last November that 2,500 Marines would be deployed to Darwin, Australia. Indonesia’s reaction was more pessimistic and subdued, with policymakers criticizing growing security competition in the region.

The problem here lies in the fact that there is no encompassing formal security institution that binds ASEAN, unlike in Europe where most members of the European Union are also members of NATO. In Europe, such overlapping institution helps bind nations because they are to some degree certain that their security concerns are addressed. Within ASEAN, however, even though its member states are more economically integrated, security arrangements lag behind, and as a result they seek out better security guarantees than can be provided by the regional grouping.

In the short term, Indonesia’s win-win approach works beautifully for its own interests in maintaining the status quo in the region and managing its relationships with both the US and China. In the long run, however, the policy will only undermine Indonesia’s cherished ASEAN project and its own credibility in international affairs.
Therefore, why does Indonesia not have a grand strategy? Actually, the country did have a grand strategy during the Soeharto era, which was evident in how Indonesia dealt with Cambodia’s four-way civil war in the 1980s. Even though Indonesia’s neighbors feared Vietnam’s expansionist ambitions and wanted to “bleed Vietnam white,” Indonesia’s main concerns centered solely on the threat of China’s expansion into Southeast Asia through its protégé, the Khmer Rouge.

Such calculations guided Indonesian foreign policy behavior, culminating in the two Jakarta Informal Meetings in July 1988 and February 1989. These meetings de-escalated the Cambodian conflict and led to the July 1990 International Paris Conference on Cambodia, co-chaired by Indonesia and France, which would end the civil war the following year.

In today’s Indonesia, however, the fragmented nature of its bureaucracy, with unclear chains of command due to overlapping organizations, self-interests, cronyism, lack of leadership and political will (and imagination), the inability to develop coherent policies, and the need to maintain the status quo rather than take painful bureaucratic reforms work in tandem to prevent any meaningful effort to craft a grand strategy. The creation of a grand strategy would force many within the various governmental bureaucracies to actually shape up and reform to meet national goals outlined in the grand strategy.

That is a shame because in the light of an uncertain global environment, and the changing nature of international affairs, it is a time for Indonesia to start developing one, lest it become more and more irrelevant, even in its own backyard.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Indonesian President’s Book Leaves Much to Be Desired

Indonesian President’s Book Leaves Much to Be Desired

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s new autobiography that was released last week will not be everyone’s cup of tea for sure.

But “Selalu Ada Pilihan” (“There Is Always a Choice”) is a must-read book for those who want to read what President Yudhoyono thinks about the duties and limitations of the present and future presidents of Indonesia in the era of Reformation. This is a book for those who want to know what the president thinks of the rumors, scandals and other things that befall Indonesia. This is also a book for those who are interested in knowing what kind of things that can get under the president’s skin — quite a lot apparently.

In fact, the bulk of this book comprises Yudhoyono’s replies to his critics — and he replies to every single accusation, rumor and innuendo ever thrown at him during his 10-year stint in the State Palace.

Written in the style of newspaper opinion columns, this book is entertaining, full of anecdotes, easy to read and accessible. The first part of the book really shines as the president has many thoughtful observations in his analysis of the Reformation era. He discusses how, after the fall of President Suharto and the collapse of the New Order regime in 1998, the powers of the president and central government have been curtailed and how he has to operate under that structure.

In his view, he was hampered by the fact that the Democratic Party held less than a third of the seats in the parliament, limiting his options. He bristles at suggestions that his administration has underperformed, compared to the administration of former President Suharto.

There have been so many expectations about what the president could have done and this book is his answer to those who think that he has failed to perform his tasks.

But there are also many discussions about the perils of uncontrolled decentralization, irresponsible members of the press, and so forth — all genuine problems in the era of Reformation. A large part of Yudhoyono’s analysis hits the mark and reading this book, one cannot help but think that he has been an idealistic president who has been truly committed to democracy and working as best as he could to fulfill his duties. He just wishes that his critics could also understand the limitations inherent to the job before they open their mouths to condemn him with unfair accusations.
At the same time, however, those who really want to know the inner workings of the decision-making process in the Yudhoyono administration will be left wanting and disappointed. There is no in-depth analysis of what critics have labeled an “autopilot presidency,” and we won’t know how exactly the president has tried to achieve his goals in the face of adversity and the constraints of his office.

There is very little in the book that would satisfy students of the policy-making process. There is almost no discussion of what the Yudhoyono administration does or tries to do in face of such structural challenges as an unruly parliament, curtailed presidential powers etcetera.

In most cases, the book glosses over criticism, dismissing it with pithy remarks and anecdotal banter between Yudhoyono and his confidants or anonymous colleagues. In general, the blame is put on disgruntled figures, critics who have unreasonable expectations or irresponsible journalists who exaggerate the seriousness of the situation at hand. Succinctly, the president knows best, critics, lumped together as straw men with ridiculous arguments, just can’t seem to see the whole picture.

By the time the book reaches its conclusion, the reader feels like having spent quite some time in a buffet and is extremely exhausted due to the breadth of material and innuendoes covered. Yet the reader can hardly be satisfied, as this book does not really address the questions that many critics have raised.

This book hopes to address some of the criticisms against Yudhoyono’s administration, but in the end, it will not change anybody’s mind. Supporters of the Yudhoyono administration will love this book for sure, pointing out that the president does care and pays attention to the plight of the people. They will stress the limited powers the Indonesian president has in the Reformation era.

Critics, however, would point at all the anecdotes — some of which are quite distracting, such as when the president mentions that someone used black magic in an attempt to murder him — and say this book is one of a whining president.

It is possible that Yudhoyono is hoping to write in greater detail about his experience as the sixth president of Indonesia in his next book. He may still plan to discuss what he considers missed opportunities, and what he should have done better in retrospect. That would mean this book is simply some sort of appetizer, his early replies to his critics. If that’s the case, then the book has succeeded.

On the other hand, if President Yudhoyono had aimed to use this book as a justification for his administration and a summation for future scholars to evaluate his presidency objectively, then it is hoped that he will do better in his next book.

Yohanes Sulaiman is a lecturer at the Indonesian Defense University (Unhan). Follow him on Twitter:@yohanessulaiman.

...unless the actual desire was to create 900 pages of pure comedy gold, in which case mission accomplished!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Proposed New Criminal Law Threatens Indonesia's Unity in Diversity

Proposed New Criminal Law Threatens Indonesia's Unity in Diversity
Yohanes Sulaiman | March 28, 2013

The law that is supposed to be 'more inclusive' and to create a more harmonious society could end up creating a divisive and disharmonious community. (JG Illustration)

The proposed criminal law that is currently being discussed in the parliament is, to put it bluntly, a disaster in the making. While there have been a lot of discussions concerning the controversial parts of the laws, such as the article that threatens to put single people engaging in premarital sex in jail, there is surprisingly little discussion on the nature of the proposed law itself which, should it be implemented, could wreak havoc on legal certainty and worse, create a more divided society, threatening the unity of the state itself by possibly stoking the issue of ethno-nationalism.

The core problems with this proposed criminal law lie in Article 2(1) and 756(1). Article 2(1) states, “The provision as noted in the Article 1 Paragraph (1) does not reduce the validity of rules that exist in the society that regulate whether someone should be sentenced even though that particular act is not regulated in the legislation.” Meanwhile Article 756 (1) adds, “Action that according to the unwritten law is prohibited and threatened with criminal sanctions is [a] criminal act.”

Defenders of these articles note that the current official law is often criticized as being detrimental to local interests as it does not take into account local values. Therefore this proposed new law would take into account local values and tribal laws, and in essence, create a more inclusive and just law. 

The intent, of course, is always noble. The question, however, is what local value is. By its nature, local values and traditions are unwritten. There are so many obscure values that exist in the society that just to be aware of some of these rules would require a long immersion in the community. 

Now, however, everyone should be aware of what the local values and traditions are, immediately, lest their actions could be inadvertently criminalized. The first victims of this law would then be companies that inadvertently run afoul of local values. What could prevent a group of people, claiming themselves representatives of the aggrieved community, to declare that a company has inadvertently broken a local taboo, for instance, by cutting down a “sacred forest,” in which the company has already been given a permission to operate by the government? 

This does not mean that there are no legitimate grievances. The Indonesian bureaucracy and its legal system is notoriously corrupt, giving bad companies opportunities to simply ignore existing rules and regulations. The proposed law, however, could open a floodgate of frivolous lawsuits, as this time the protests will be backed by the criminal law itself, and would criminalize good companies and bad companies alike, with the ripple effect of souring the investment climate in Indonesia.

More disturbingly, this new law could be used to stoke ethnic conflict. When there are two communities with different values existing together, and members of these different communities come into conflict because they are doing something that might not be seen as acceptable to a different community (e.g. eating beef in parts of Central Java or Bali), whose local traditions and tribal laws should be obeyed? 

Of course, then there are questions of “who is the majority” and how far the boundaries of tribal law would apply. 

Javanese could make a strong case that since they are the largest ethnic group in Indonesia, the Javanese tribal laws and regulations must apply anywhere in Indonesia. On the other hand, if the “boundary” is seen as the size of a district, then this proposed law could create patchworks of different laws based on local traditions that could further compartmentalize ethnic groups, creating an incentive for an ethnic group to be a majority in that particular area. To make the situation more confusing, even within an ethnic group, there are always sub-groups whose values may be different, such as the Sundanese Baduy community. Therefore, this law will create more and more legal uncertainties since there are of course always different interpretations of what a “local area” is.

There is also the possibility that troublemakers will simply make up local laws and regulations that are very vague in order to stoke ethnic and religious conflicts — e.g. a particular ethnic group by its nature should adhere to one particular religion only. This would result in forced conversions and more religious conflicts and squabbles. Political opportunists and troublemakers then could cause more problems. 

While many politicians have already used ethnic issues to get ahead during the electioneering season, the stakes are now higher, since this is more about whose ethnic values and regulations would dominate. Ironically, the law that is supposed to be “more inclusive” and to create a more harmonious society could end up creating a divisive and disharmonious community. While one defender of the proposed law declared that it would create a truly independent Indonesia, independent from the shackles of Dutch colonial law, the inadvertent side effect of this law could threaten the existence of Indonesia itself.

3:39pm Mar 28, 2013

Good article. I fear this country is losing its mind and these new proposed laws prove it. No thinking ahead to what problems they will create. I fear large scale sectarian and ethnic conflict is on the way and these new laws will accelerate it from coming.
Also regarding the laws governing peoples private lives like sexuality, whose values are they talking about. Unmarried sexual relations are rampant in Indonesia from villages right up to the government. Or even worse are the marriages that are performed just so that two people can have sex which will be even more common after these laws. So when they say that goes against our values they really mean the fantasy values not the reality of what the values actually are in this country.I also find it strange nothing was included about corruption which is really the biggest issue in Indonesia.

4:10pm Mar 28, 2013

@Yohanes Sulaiman - excellent article.

4:14pm Mar 28, 2013

i think if the law is too stupid most regions will have a better excuse to seperate such as Bali.

4:56pm Mar 28, 2013

hasty laws = bad bad laws. As Yohanes Sulaiman has high lighted, our 'lords and masters' are incapable of think through the ramifications of their proposals

5:45pm Mar 28, 2013
Isn't this the caliber of article a senior news anchor for Metro TV should aspire to write?

Excellent piece.

6:30pm Mar 28, 2013
@Yohanes - thanks for another spot on article. However, your sober observations make you unqualified to be president - you can think and reason. None of these abilities are appreciated by the establishment here. What jblnor mention below could actually happen rather sooner that later.
Pak Yohanes, I would like to ask you one question: If the Filipinos could get rid of Marcos by popular uprising, how come the Indonesian public does not go down this road - they must be just as sick and tired of what happens here?? Wish you all a happy and peaceful Easter..

7:31pm Mar 28, 2013
Nice to see you writing again Yohanes and a very good one too!
Best regards.

9:04pm Mar 28, 2013
Thank you all for your kind comments.
@jblnor: actually there's something about corruption -- the KUHP will make it illegal to conduct wiretap, unless it is approved by the court first; meaning that the KPK will lose one of its most important tools to combat corruption.
@TalkingEid: the goal is simply to get something done before the next election so they could make an argument that this is not a do-nothing parliament. Yeah, I know, this explanation is overly charitable, otherwise the other explanation is that they are as dumb as doornails.
@Pelan2: The short answer is that Marcos manipulated the election and people were sick of his governance. He was ill and people found an alternative in Aquino. In our case, the regular and relatively free and clean election is the safety valve that actually prevent people's anger from boiling.

11:32pm Mar 28, 2013
It is a bit disappointing that the fundamentals of criminal law established in the 19th century are unfamiliar to lawmakers in the 21st century. Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege certa et scripta: There is to be no crime and no punishment without a definite written law. “A penal stature can only achieve its purpose, namely to function as an authoritative basis for punishability if it defines both the punishable conduct and its consequences - the penalty - with sufficient definiteness - only then can penal statutes be foreseeable and calculable for citizens. [Indeterminate] penal statutes would of course excavate both the general preventive function and the protective function of criminal law, whereby the protection of individual citizens against judicial arbitrariness is considered to be the decisive constitutional aspect.” (M. Boot)

9:05am Mar 29, 2013
Good piece -
One thing to add re your response the Pelan.
From travels around the nation over the last few years it has become obvious that more Indonesians are getting really fed up with all the corruption, violence and oppression. (police/tni/religious/mobs)- What is amazing is that anger is rarely directed at the palace, but tends to remain local.
Sooner or later hastened by the ever widening poverty gap and increasing radicalization of an ever more maginalized populous that anger will explode.
Even the elections are more often than no being viewed with suspicion, and rightly so - the time bomb is ticking, which is why the greedy gits are pushing through all manner of social order bills

3:44pm Mar 29, 2013
Thanks Pak Yohanes. No. 2 - how long will it take, in your view, before the RI people will have had enough of non-performing, corrupt executive and legislative branch representatives?

7:37pm Mar 29, 2013
@Contextus: The argument is that they want to totally ditch the "colonial" law that Indonesia cannot be independent until it has its own law that take into account local traditons. Therefore, away with that "fundamental." In other words, they have zero clue on what they are doing.
@DrDez: true. The anger is not directed to the palace due to the feudal mindset of many Indonesians that think that "Pak SBY" is nice and the evil things are done by his subordinates. Though, I am betting that should Ibas really be indicted for corruption, things may change really fast.
@Pelan2: My hunch is when there really is a credible alternative. Look at Jokowi. Before he is in power, nobody cares about the DPRD. Now, every time one of them try to bring Jokowi down a notch, seems that the reactions from the public are very hostile.
In essence, you will think that everyday will be business as usual, until there's someone credible enough to tell you that there is a new sheriff in town that's gonna run these people out from the town.

4:41am Mar 30, 2013

Let's give the new sheriff all the support he deserves and I truly hope a particular pair will succeed at the MA. The incumbent's in the same boat as 'A' or perhaps even worse.

7:42am Mar 30, 2013
I disagree. I think the proposed law is good. It will bring us closer to our root, to our origin when everything is pure and simple and without all the bad foreign influence.

This will bring us to the original law prevailing in this beautiful archipelago long long time ago. Yes, the jungle law.


11:02pm Apr 2, 2013

When adat/tradition talks, intelectual mutation needed.
When politic talks, diminished truth ensues.
When radical religion talks, bigotry & horrific quackery is on display.
When money talks, oxymoron laws can be made.

Veritas, non auctoritas, facit legem. ( Truth, not authority makes the law)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

An Eventful Year for Indonesia

An Eventful Year for Indonesia
Yohanes Sulaiman | December 27, 2012

With the new year closing in fast, let’s take a look at some of the most important domestic events hitting headlines this past year, and how they may affect us in the next.

Strength in numbers

The labor union might have legitimate grievances in its decision to blockade the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road last January. But it also set a terrible precedent by making it clear that the best way to force the government to do whatever you want is to cause massive traffic jams. Moreover, the government’s unwillingness to crack down on law-breaking protesters gave a signal to everyone that the government would not arrest anyone as long as they have strength in numbers.

Thus, while street demonstrations are not that uncommon after the fall of the New Order, this year marked a significant increase in the number of huge demonstrations that brought the traffic to a standstill.

The problem, aside of massive economic cost from lost time and gasoline and jittery investors having second thoughts about investing in Indonesia, these huge demonstrations also had an adverse effect of essentially stressing the idea of “might makes right.” Rather than contributing to the creation of stable democratic institutions, these demonstrations make a mockery of the rule of law and proper channels for grievances — the courts and the legislature.

Of course the blame goes both ways. It could be argued that people were forced to hit the streets as the government, the court system and the parliament were notoriously unresponsive to people’s concerns about economic injustices and bad policies, undermining the people’s trust in the first place. It could also be easily argued the government was unable to communicate its policies effectively with the people, making it easy for the provocateurs to whip up public sentiment to the detriment of government policies.

Either way, the toll road blockade marked a complete collapse of public trust in the government and the government’s ineffectual response to the blockade set a bad precedent for years to come.

‘Shock therapy’

The unlikely victory of Joko Widodo and Basuki T. Purnama in the Jakarta gubernatorial election jolted both regular Indonesians and the political elite alike. Apparently a pair of candidates with good track records could beat the establishment candidates backed by the political parties and their money machines.

This campaign also marked the power of the Internet, especially social media, in Indonesian elections. A strong, enthusiastic grassroots support could provide a strong countermeasure to ugly black campaigns that tried to bring up the divisive issues of ethnicity, race and religion.

More importantly, this election also stressed the need for the candidates to maintain self-discipline to win the race. We saw how Nachrowi Ramli self-destructed on national television during the gubernatorial debate. That, in essence, gave the election away to Jokowi-Ahok, despite Fauzi Bowo’s own respectable performance in the debate.

After the election, given the public’s high expectations of the victorious pair, Jokowi-Ahok also perform remarkably well. In spite of some complaints regarding Jokowi’s predilection to travel a lot, visiting Jakarta’s kampongs, and Ahok’s anger management problem, people remain ecstatic as the two manage to show the public that they are working hard to solve Jakarta’s massive problems.

The pair also enjoyed national adoration as Indonesians were supporting their  “shock therapy” — well-deserved public humiliation of what people saw as arrogant and out-of-touch bureaucrats. Not surprisingly, the two are possibly the most popular politicians in Indonesia today, though the sentiment seems not to be shared by many of Jakarta’s local parliamentarians or bureaucrats that are on the receiving edge of the “shock therapy.”

Angelina and the Democrats

Muhammad Nazaruddin’s claims of massive corruption within the ruling Democratic Party was vindicated with the arrest and trial of Angelina Sondakh over the  long-running Southeast Asian Games athletes village bribery scandal.

After the indictment of Angelina, more and more people were implicated in the scandal, including Andi Mallarangeng, the sports and youth affairs minister, who decided to leave both the ministry and the Democratic Party early this month.

While Andi’s guilt is not certain, the indictment of so many parliamentarians and other Democrats has put the party on the defensive. Opinion polls suggest people no longer trust the party’s commitment to eradicate corruption and many will abandon it ahead of the 2014 elections.

With the electoral field wide open, there are possibilities that small parties, especially Prabowo Subianto’s Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), which already received a significant boost for backing Jokowi-Ahok, could reap the benefits, as people are looking for figures seen as decisive enough to combat massive corruption.

KPK under fire

This year is also marked by a concerted assault on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) — by both lawmakers and the police force. First, the parliament decided to release the draft of the revised KPK law that would significantly curtail some of the KPK’s powers, notably its ability to conduct wiretaps on suspected corruptors and their accomplices and to prosecute corruptors. The draft also called for the creation of a KPK Supervisory Council, whose members were selected by the parliament itself. Many believed that the council would in the end meddle with the KPK’s affairs so much that the commission would be made irrelevant.

Later, the police, angered over a KPK investigation into the driving simulator procurement graft case, attempted to arrest Novel Baswedan, the head of the KPK’s investigation team, over an old, dubious case. When that didn’t work, the police decided to pull their investigators from the KPK, significantly weakening its ability to investigate corruption cases.

The public uproar over this case was such that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was forced to step into the fray to stress his support for the KPK. By staking his reputation on this, however, the embattled president will receive the lion’s share of the blame should the KPK end up emasculated. And that will harm his ability to influence the election to pick his successor in 2014.


4:06pm Dec 27, 2012
And FPIxMUI are not mentioned.

5:19pm Dec 27, 2012
...and that stupid sandal trial, etc., etc.,etc. Some of them due to the lack of space. But, the goal of the article is to identify four most important events of 2012 -- and nNothing new about MUI and FPI -- they have caused troubles for years and years already and especially the latter, the government never develops enough backbone to tackle them. Not that they are unimportant, but nothing "new" about them in 2012. That's all.

1:12am Feb 28, 2013
FPI and MUI are nothing but organization of terrorists who promote terrorism. Period! They are hiding behind the religion while actually they tarnish the religion like hell.